Windstream's total market cap is US$117 million on sales of US$5 billion. Frontier is valued at US$283 million with sales over US$9 billion. Those prices do not make sense unless the companies are likely to go bust soon.
I am not, repeat not, predicting the bust. I haven't done the research. I have no malice. Repeat: this is not my prediction. I hope this proves wrong.
What I am saying is the investor consensus implies a very high risk that cannot be ignored by regulators.
Government and vendors must have a contingency plan. I'm asking the FCC and state regulators what their plan is. I doubt many have one. I expect few if any will give me a meaningful answer. I'm writing this story as a wake-up call; being unprepared has been very costly in the past.
Frontier has lost money the last four years but paid out US$250 million in dividends. Capex has been way below depreciation. It has been borrowing more every year. Debt and other liabilities are over US$20 billion, far more than the likely value of a phone company without wireless.
Windstream has lost money three of the last four years but paid about a billion in dividends. In 2015, Windstream spun off its network into CS&L, nominally to take advantage of income tax savings for real estate. Renamed Uniti, the former CS&L now has a market cap of ~US$3 billion. A state regulator looking for funds to prop up Windstream's consumer business might look closely at the transaction. I have no evidence it was fraudulent but the results are consistent with an improper deal.
Both have starved their networks for years. The money went to dividends to keep the stock price high. I was surprised it took this long for Frontier to collapse.
Customers who have no choice but really lousy broadband suffer the most.